In simple terms, agorabophy is the fear of open spaces, crowded places (translated as “fear of the market, retail space”). However, nowadays this concept extends to the fear of all situations from which you cannot get out now and immediately.
Agoraphobia has a serious impact on the quality of life, turning a healthy person into a hermit. This phobia is sometimes based on individual psychological characteristics and attitudes. And sometimes comorbidities (panic disorders, cardiovascular and endocrine diseases). Understanding the true causes of agoraphobia, plus competent treatment of it with modern methods, is the key to success in the fight against it.
Symptoms of agoraphobia
- You are haunted by anxiety associated with the prospect of being in some place or situation from which you cannot immediately get out at your first desire. It can be a fear of leaving the house, crossing squares, standing in lines, just being in a crowd, driving one or another form of transport.
- Your experiences are connected not only with the possibility of an attack (panic attack), but also with how you will look in the eyes of other people, with their opinion of you. You feel the need to “keep a face” and in no case give out your feelings.
- You don’t just worry about certain places or situations, but you do everything possible and impossible to avoid them: stay at home, refuse meetings, change your lifestyle, adjusting to your fear.
Agoraphobia is diagnosed in 3-5% of the world’s population, and women are 3 times more likely than men.
Causes of agoraphobia
- individual predisposition.
- The presence of social phobias.
- Communication problems.
- Psycho-emotional trauma that occurred outside your home (attacks, accidents, etc.).
- episodes of depression.
- Postponed cardiovascular diseases (heart attack, stroke), bronchial asthma.
Some researchers suggest that a secluded lifestyle in childhood, lack of experience of living in various situations, lack of social contacts (both with overprotection and with insufficient attention from parents) are the main factor in the development of agoraphobia in adolescence and adolescence. First of all, those who are naturally characterized by psychological rigidity (rigidity, inflexibility, inability to change behavior according to new conditions).
Signs of agoraphobia
Situational manifestations of agoraphobia can be very different, such as:
- an oppressive feeling of longing or panic;
- lack of air;
- dizziness, darkening in the eyes;
- fever or, conversely, trembling;
- sensation of a lump in the throat;
All these unpleasant sensations exacerbate the fear itself: the patient is afraid to experience them again. There is a so-called fear of fear .
How to beat agoraphobia on your own
- Get maximum information from competent sources. In other words, to read literature (both scientific and artistic) on this topic. Books on agoraphobia and other similar conditions provide both moral support and working techniques to help you deal with your seizures.
- Do not succumb to the disease, but step by step (literally!) overcome it. The strategy of avoiding places where you might have a seizure will lead you to a dead end. Sooner or later you will find that you cannot leave the house at all. Therefore, try to gradually increase the distance that separates you from the house, even if only by a few meters. Set yourself achievable goals.
- In a potentially stressful situation, take seats that allow you to quickly get out of it (buy tickets for side seats in cinemas, sit closer to the exit in transport, etc.).
- Enlist the consent of a friend or relative to accompany you on your routes. This should be a person who is really close to you and whom you trust. He will not laugh or make fun of your condition. With the role of such an escort, pets also do an excellent job. First of all, of course, dogs.
- Learn breathing techniques. They are the main helpers in panic attacks that accompany attacks of agoraphobia. If you learn to deal with these attacks on the spot instead of running for your life, you’ve won.
- Manage your attention, be distracted by the details of the surrounding landscape or by objects specially taken with you for this purpose (rosary, umbrella, cane, etc.).
- When leaving the house, take sedatives and cardiovascular drugs.
Advice to relatives : help the patient with agoraphobia, accompanying him in potentially stressful situations, and not doing all the things for him that require going out. By doing this, you do not improve, but, on the contrary, aggravate his psychological state. If you see that the situation requires professional intervention, help the patient to realize this and (if necessary) find the right specialist.
Treatment for agoraphobia
Modern methods of treatment of agoraphobia can achieve a significant improvement in the patient’s condition, and in many cases completely solve the problem once and for all. For this, complex therapy is used, including:
- medication correction (tranquilizers, antipsychotics, antidepressants, etc.);
- psychotherapy (first of all, cognitive-behavioral therapy, which allows you to eliminate errors in thinking, develop positive thinking);
- Biofeedback therapy (biofeedback therapy, when the patient learns to control his physiological parameters using a special computer program).
When contacting a specialist, prepare for the fact that you will be prescribed an examination of the cardiovascular system and thyroid gland. The fact is that often agoraphobia develops against the background of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism , as well as mitral valve prolapse . In such cases, drug treatment of underlying diseases can also get rid of agoraphobia.
Hypothyroidism is a disease of the endocrine system, characterized by a lack of thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism, affect the emotional background, and the body’s resistance to stress and stress.
Hyperthyroidism is a state of overactive thyroid gland. An increase in the level of hormones in the blood speeds up metabolic processes in the body and has a negative effect on almost all organ systems.
Mitral valve prolapse is a heart defect in which the leaflets of the mitral valve bulge into the left atrium during contraction of the left ventricle. In most cases, the disease is asymptomatic and is detected by chance during a preventive examination.
In a word, not everything is as scary as it seems, if you are inside the disease. You just need to admit that there is a problem, stop dealing with it alone (especially if you have been doing it for a long time and unsuccessfully) and accept help from specialists who exist to help in such situations.
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- Carbonell D. Let’s talk about panic attacks. Workbook with exercises and tests. – Olymp-Business, 2021. – 486 p.